So on Sunday I had the privilege of attending a focus group on X-men Legends. I didn't want to go without 100littledolls, but she said I should go in her place. So I tried my best to represent.
My dream for years has been to tell the video game industry how I feel on a number of subjects, and here was my chance. The group consisted of about 7 guys in their 20s and 30s--all but one white. Good start huh? I was all fired up and angry at the fact that I had to go alone, and was ready to throw down some feminism right at their faces. When the questions started though, I calmed down a bit, but made sure to let them know that I really cared about the social messages of their product. They started out asking general questions: what's your favorite game, why do you like the X-men, ect. I tried to relay the point of how cool it is that the X-men are on the fringe of society, and that the basis of the comic is them fighting for their place in the world. They asked about characters within the game, and I pointed out how the X-men already have a diverse cast, and many strong, well established women characters. Raven doesn't need to do anything but put them in the game. I feel the first game had much better character choices, (why would I want to play as Toad?) and a larger amount of female mutants. Personally I would love to see Kitty Pride in a game, Raven studios is such a jerk for not putting her in.
After giving them a well thought out pitch for my own game, they started to pass out descriptions of possible game ideas that were actually being considered for production. They wanted our feelings on them, and let me tell you, most of them were terrible. The funniest and saddest was an X-men World War II game, where in an alternate universe, get this, Hitler won, so therefore communism?! Ruled the World, and Magneto somehow reigned as the supreme overlord. As Cable you would go back in time and kill Nazis with bullet time moves like in a Max Payne type shooter. What? So much of that doesn't make sense. The highlight of the afternoon, however, was the description of X-Men Femme Force. In this concept, Mystique releases a virus that affects all the male X-men leaving only the women left to stop her. Kind of a corny story, but having an all female mutant cast would be pretty cool. I read on though, and discovered a main part of the game would be to "dress up" your characters in different outfits, then it made a reference to DOA and claimed that the game would be just as sexy. Ouch. Costume changes are great, but the X-women aren't dolls, they're freedom fighters. To my surprise, I wasn't the first person to speak up. Two other people in the group informed everyone that their girlfriends were gamers and played the first two Legends along with them. They said that they were extremely disappointed that they couldn't come to the focus group. I also spoke up and related 100littledolls' plight. We agreed that we would play a game with an all woman cast. I then pleaded with them to not objectify these characters--I told them that it would be unnecessary and offensive.
As we were leaving, I heard the two guys in charge of the focus group talking to each other. They were surprised with the responses they were getting concerning women and games: "Wow, we really need to do a women's focus group..." F-ing Duh! But it's a start I guess. Overall, I tried to use this opportunity to also log my complaint of lack of originality in video games. Many of the game ideas presented to us were just rehashes of other popular games: Mercenaries with Wolverine, or Dynasty Warriors with X-men. Personally, if I wanted to play a game like Mercenaries, why wouldn't I just play Mercenaries, or Mercenaries II, whenever that comes out? The main issue with superhero games is that they have never established their own genre, or niche. They have always just hopped on board to a preexisting series of games. The focus should not be to make a copy of a existing game, but to define what superhero games are and create a place for them in the industry. Take a risk! More often than not, it will pay off. Just look at Nintendo.